I am planning to start regular workouts in the gym and want to monitor my progress. Measuring body fat seems like a good starting point and I've already read about various methods to achieve that. I was wondering whether there is a point in measuring whole body fat when you have disproportionate body?

My case: I am a female with quite thin yet muscular upper body - narrow arms, protruding collar bone, strong back and flat belly. The lower body is also muscular but with a proper layer of fat especially around hips and thighs. By visual inspection the two parts clearly have different fat percentage (even when considering the fact that females should have some fat around hips). Is there a way to estimate body fat only for lower or upper body? Or maybe the whole body measure is sufficient? I am mainly interested in working on my lower body to achieve some balance and to monitor my progress I don't want to rely only on a mirror as the perception of my own body may change and I can get very critical at times.

  • 2
    I mean if ur gonna take the time to get skin fold calipers why not just do the full measurement
    – aaronman
    Aug 4, 2013 at 2:37
  • Measuring your own fat accurately with calipers is not possible.
    – JohnP
    Aug 11, 2014 at 14:46

3 Answers 3


If I understand your question properly, you're asking if there's a point in measuring the whole body fat when the body is disproportionate, right?

While there are devices that focus more of the upper limbs than lower limbs and vice versa (based on the entry point for the bio-electrical impedance used for the measurement), it doesn't make much sense to have different measurements for different sections of the body.

How would this sound: "I have a 18% upper body fat measurement and a 24% lower body fat measurement"? Not only is it weird, but it's also hard to accurately measure since the measurements have to take the entire body into account.

So yeah, there's a point to whole body measurement. If you feel you want a proportionate body, focus on the areas that need more work so that everything can be even.

Thank you.

  • I wouldn't mind having 2 separate measurements for lower and upper body. If I want to monitor my progress I would be happier with the statement that I went down 3% in my lower body while the upper body stayed the same. But I see your point, thanks!
    – Rabbit
    Aug 13, 2014 at 14:01

A number of academic studies have tried to apportion / quantify the percentage of body fat by compartment (bit of the body), but they all appear to have a standard error in the order of +/- 4%. This error is similar to that in the normal guestimates as to your total body fat, so similarly should be taken as a rough guess e.g. a 10% figure will correlate with your actual fat mass in the: 6% - 14% range.

If your interested in a paper to read have a look at: Study and classification of the abdominal adiposity throughout the application of the two-dimensional predictive equation Garaulet et al., in the clinical practice OR:


Dunk tests are the best (and in my opinion) only valid way to assess BF%. All of the others seem highly inaccurate.

  • All tests depend on the skill of the practitioner and the testee. If a person does not completely exhale on the dunk test it can skew the results. Dunk tanks and DXA can be the best methods, although the dunk tank needs proper administration, and the DXA calculations may not work for all cohorts.
    – JohnP
    Aug 11, 2014 at 14:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.